Posted by Layne Zhou
The Georgia Court of Appeals has recently decided that the statements contained within a police report are admissible as a business record, even without the officer’s personal testimony. Maloof v. MARTA, 330 Ga. App. 763 (2015). The facts underlying this case are that an elderly woman, who was riding in a wheelchair in a MARTA para-transit bus, fell out of her wheelchair and fractured her leg when the bus came to a sudden stop. Although she died a few months later, her Estate sued MARTA for negligence. MARTA introduced the police accident report as part of its case. Plaintiff objected on the grounds that the report contained inadmissible hearsay-namely the police officer’s statements.
Surprisingly, the Court of Appeals reversed course and allowed the officer’s statements into evidence. Specifically, the Court in Maloof found that as long as the statements contained in the report were observations made by the officer him or herself, the report was admissible.
Opinions or observations of witnesses contained in the accident report, for example, an eyewitness who tells the officer that the defendant ran the red light, still constitute inadmissible hearsay. However, anything contained in the report that constitutes a personal observation of the officer, for example, whether he or she observed skid marks, the weather conditions, etc. will now be admissible even if the officer is not present in Court.
The Maloof decision appears to cut both ways. It is now easier for parties to introduce police accident reports into evidence as business records. Practically speaking, however, these reports often contain errors that will need to be corrected by the party opposing its admissibility and the investigating officer may still be subpoenaed to appear and defend the report.